Black Leaders’ Awareness Day: My favourite black-owned businesses
As a black woman in the business world and as a diversity expert, I am probably more aware than most of the real racial disparities in the field. I have experienced racism first-hand throughout my twenty-one years in business and I know that many of my other black and minority ethnic peers have as well. Tragic events last summer led to a massive reigniting of the BLM movement and opened the conversation about discrimination and disparities in civil society at large, business included.
The stats are clear: there are no black CEOs in any of the UK’s top 100 companies; black employees, although more qualified on average than their white counterparts, are less likely to be promoted; black and minority ethnic applicants fewer chances of having a positive response to their application based on how “ethnic” their name sounds; and’ black business owners report a median turnover of £25,000 per year, more than a third less than white business owners’, despite better qualifications and putting more time and money into their ventures.
These are startling numbers, yet they also show how important it is to recognise opportunities and awareness days. With that in mind, I decided to take advantage of Black Leaders Awareness Day to share with you some of my favourite black-owned businesses and hopefully contribute to closing the gap, even if it is a tiny bit.
Reggae Reggae Sauce
An absolute essential in this list. It combines three of my favourite things: Dragon’s Den, entrepreneurship, and delicious BBQ and jerk-infused sauce. It is unlikely that there is a performance as memorable as that of Levi Roots’ 2007 Dragon’s Den pitch for the now-iconic Reggae Reggae sauce. Peter Jones has described it as one of his most successful investments, and for good reason. Not only can you find a bottle of the product in all major food retailers, but the brand has expanded into different sauces, snacks, drinks, cooking books- you name it.
The branding is perfect. Levi Roots celebrates and centralises his cultural identity. Reggae Reggae is as much about Jamaican culture as it is about the delicious sauce. Peter Jones is quoted as saying: “Levi’s success has meant that he has become a spokesperson for both Caribbean cuisine as well as more generally for entrepreneurship amongst the black community” and I can’t help but to agree.
I still remember a time in the UK when it was hard to access hair products that cater to black people. We weren’t always so lucky to have quick access to afro salons and shops. As a black woman, I am more than aware of our complex relationship with our hair and how much it takes to maintain it. I am excited to see black women take ownership and start businesses that service their niches while being inclusive of other women who might also benefit from products traditionally used by the black community.
That is why I am so in love with Luxe Bonnets – a brand that truly understands the principles I mentioned. Providing stylish, clean, and elegant bonnets for all hair types for an affordable price and excellent quality. The social media branding, of course, highlights inclusivity and is designed to appeal to its target. It’s owned by Laverne, a Black-British woman of Caribbean ancestry who wanted to celebrate curly hair and her blackness proudly. So she gave us this wonderful tool that keeps your hair looking moisturised and healthy. Luxe bonnets and Laverne are showing other young black women how they can turn their differences into a business and be successful while doing it, and that alone makes this an essential recommendation.
Following the themes of past exclusion from society, not that long ago, those of us with deeper or lighter skin tones, or those from Asian ancestry, struggled a fair bit to find make-up that matched. Make-up brands would rarely cater their products to those of us under-serviced. Enter a revolutionary brand – Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty.
I still remember the excitement that was flowing in social media as Fenty released their shade range. I have vivid memories of watching videos of women of all shades deemed out of the norm crying when trying on the foundations and concealers. Singer and icon Rihanna filled a major gap in the beauty industry and created beautiful products that also sell at an affordable price.
Everything about Fenty screams accessibility and inclusivity which makes it one of my favourites. Of course, it is also admirable how a brand that hasn’t been around for even 10 years has become a staple in our cultural zeitgeist and established itself in a competitive market. Rihanna has not only given a lot of young women the gift of finding make-up that matches, but also of aspiring to one day be just like her and run a successful brand.
Growing up, I had no businesses role models that looked like me. I had to make myself my role model, but I am glad that there is a generation of young black children who have people to look up to, helping them realise early on that they can do anything as long as they set their minds to it.
Although there are still deep inequalities, discrimination, and disparities, it is by supporting already existing black businesses, and encouraging young black people to get into it that we affect change, and who knows, maybe we can imagine a future in which these disparities don’t exist anymore.